Divine Freaks by Fiona Dunbar
|Divine Freaks by Fiona Dunbar|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: It's always a shock when you meet your first ghost. It's even worse when your grandma tells you your mother saw them too, and that from now on, you'll be not only seeing them, but hearing them – and they won't stop bothering you until you help them sort out any unfinished business they left on earth.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2011|
|Publisher: Orchard Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Unless you really love science, Mr Wesley's Biology lessons can occasionally seem a little dull. Still, a spot of boredom might have been better, in Kitty Slade's opinion, than the mean grey-faced man who turned up, began to dissect a rat, then just as suddenly disappeared again. Leaving her, of course, to explain to her mystified teacher just why she had leapt from her seat, shoved him aside and lunged at thin air. The rest of the class didn't mind: watching Kitty dash about the room screaming was way more fun than anything Mr Wesley could do. Things got a little heated after that, however, and Kitty stormed out of school, convinced she was losing her mind.
Maro, her Greek grandmother, tries to reassure her that she is not crazy, but learning that you have phantorama, a condition which allows you to see ghosts, doesn't sound a whole lot better, when you think about it. And when Kitty discusses things with her brother and sister she realises this isn't her first ghost: she has seen several people recently who were invisible to the others.
There is a serious side to Kitty's gift, because she has to solve mysteries and run all manner of risks to placate the ghosts, but Fiona Dunbar draws plenty of humour from the situation too. There are two delightful old biddies called Hilda and Hortense for example, who haunt the local antique shop, and their snobbish remarks about the clients, the décor and the owner are a hilarious counterpoint to the main action. This humour, and the lively pace of the book, help the reader gloss over the way the children manage – almost magically – to escape from all sorts of danger.
Interactions between the various members of the family are both funny and charming, and it is refreshingly different to see a young teen turn to her family for help rather than her friends. But then, anyone who lives with a hilariously eccentric and affectionate gran like Maro is bound to have an unusual attitude to life. Despite their different ages and their occasional squabbles, the three children trust each other and are very close, and this will prove invaluable during the other books in the series, as they set off on new adventures.
The location of the book is so clear it is almost a character in itself. The Portobello Road is full of life and colour, with its markets and street stalls and shops selling everything under the sun, and in such a setting the motley characters (both alive and dead) don't seem in the least out of place. This book is the first in a series, and for reasons which will become clear as you read the book, each one will be set in a different place. Fiona Dunbar (who will be known to many readers already as the author of the 'Silk Sisters' books, and the 'Lulu Baker' trilogy about a girl who finds a magical recipe book recently adapted for television, under the name 'Jinx') says on her excellent website that she hopes to write at least six stories about Kitty and her slightly eccentric family. Ghosts will be involved each time, of course, and presumably Kitty will continue to have to balance solving mysteries which are very definitely part of the mortal world with the ghosts' desire to have their unfinished business sorted out. If this book is anything to go by Kitty will soon be as popular a heroine as Lulu, Rorie and Elsie.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: Fiona Dunbar has written several books: try Tiger-Lily Gold from the 'Silk Sisters' series. Readers at the younger age of this category will also enjoy Time Train to the Blitz by Sophie McKenzie, another tale of the extraordinary bursting into everyday life. And in A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler, a single action pushes the heroine one year into the future.
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